Alan Jones v Adani: 'If you think we're that stupid, think again'
UNTIL now, environmentalists have been the main voices opposing Adani's controversial mega mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin.
But a TV ad, which seeks to 'stop the taxpayer loan to Adani', features conservative broadcaster Alan Jones as the face of a new campaign from Lock the Gate.
In the ad, Jones expresses his disbelief at the potential use of taxpayers' money to help fund the $16.5 billion coal mine.
"How is it that Australian governments are committed to Adani when no bank in the world will lend them money?" Jones asks.
The radio announcer notes that the mine's owners will also "get their water for nothing", have been accused of transferring tax and benefits to the Cayman Islands and have family members before the courts in India.
"None of that seems to bother us," Jones said. "Well, I'm saying to Adani and the governments of Australia, if you think we are that stupid, you need to think again."
It's not the first time Jones has appeared in an ad for Lock the Gate Alliance, which draws together farmers, traditional owners, conservationists and others concerned about the impacts of mining.
Jones also fronted a 2015 campaign against a proposed crack down on "lawfare", which would have only allowed people directly impacted by a development to challenge major developments.
While Jones is not known for being an environmentalist - he campaigned vigorously against the carbon tax - he is a vocal supporter of farmers and has become a fierce critic of the Adani mine.
The mega mine located in the Galilee Basin would span across 280 square kilometres, an area that would cover most of the Brisbane metropolitan area from north to south.
Adani is hoping to get a $1 billion loan from the Federal Government's National Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), which would go towards building a rail line from the mine to Abbot Point port so coal can be shipped overseas.
National Lock the Gate co-ordinator Phil Laird said the Federal Government should listen to everyday Australians, the overwhelming majority of whom oppose the idea of public money being directed to support coal mine projects.
"A mere 7 per cent of voters support the idea of using public money to fund projects such as Adani's controversial Carmichael coal proposal," Mr Laird said.
"The mine will spell absolute disaster for the environment, permanently altering the landscape and leaving behind 17 huge waste dumps, alongside six massive voids which are predicted to drain adjoining groundwater permanently.
"Instead of using taxpayers money to fund this mine which will wreak total havoc on the environment, particularly on groundwater, our government should be investing in renewable energy to foster sustainable regional development and job growth," he said.
The ad comes just weeks after Adani announced it would break ground on its Carmichael coal mine in October, with the first coal to be produced by the facility in March 2020.
Earlier this year, Jones expressed disbelief about the granting of water licences to Adani, which will give the mine unlimited access to groundwater for the next 60 years with no government oversight.
The move has outraged drought-affected farmers in the region, who are worried about their access to water if the licence goes ahead.
NAIF is still considering whether to approve the taxpayer-funded loan, although company chairman Gautam Adani was accused of arrogance recently after he told Indian media in a recent interview that the project would be funded by "internal accruals, NAIF and foreign banks".
When asked why Mr Adani said the project would be funded by NAIF, despite the loan not yet being approved, no response was provided by Adani's spokesman.
The loan is certainly not a done deal with opposition ramping up against it.
Many don't think Adani should get a government loan, especially when banks around the world as well as Australia's 'big four' have ruled out financing the project, partly due to opposition from green groups, and in an economic environment where coal prices are dropping.
There have also been calls for the loan to be denied after Adani was accused of ripping off Indian citizens through a complex fraud that would likely have led to higher power prices for consumers.
Concern over Adani's dealings overseas, including illegal dealings, bribery, environmental and social devastation as well as allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering was raised by Environmental Justice Australia in a report released in February.
Since it was announced, the Adani mine has drawn opposition from a diverse range of voices.
This week Birriah-Widi traditional owner Ken Peters-Dodd, community leader Sharon France, and Great Barrier Reef tour operator Lindsay Simpson are expected to deliver an Australian Conservation Foundation petition to politicians in Canberra that has more than 100,000 signatures against providing public money for Adani.
Environmental activists argue the project cannot proceed because carbon emissions from the coal being burned in India will further damage the already-ailing Great Barrier Reef through climate change.
During a protest in Sydney on the weekend, former Greens leader and veteran conservationist Bob Brown predicted a revolt at the next election if the loan and "evil, rotten, corrupt" mine went ahead.
Maggie McKeown from the Mackay Conservation Group said Queenslanders had seen the impacts of climate change in the form of heat, coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and cyclone damage.
"If Adani opens up the coal in the Galilee Basin, it's undeniable that these events will become more frequent and more intense," she said.
The Federal Court last week dismissed two legal bids to stop it going ahead, from traditional owners and environmental groups.
More recently GetUp raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest after it emerged Adani lobbyist Cameron Milner would help run Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's election campaign.
Labor state secretary Evan Moorhead has dismissed concerns, saying Mr Milner would be working as a volunteer at ALP campaign at state office, "as he has for more than 20 years".
But GetUp climate campaign director Sam Regester disagreed.
"The Palaszczuk Government is making decisions about Adani's royalties, infrastructure and environmental approvals. It's a massive conflict of interest to have Adani's lobbyist engaged in her election campaign," he said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has ruled out financial support but her Labor government views the enormous project as a valuable jobs generator.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been accused by protesters of sitting on the fence on the issue.
The Stop Adani group will hold a national day of action against the project on October 7.
The Lock the Gate ad campaign featuring Alan Jones will be aired on Sky TV.